Pitt prepares for new athletic complex: Spring of 2010 earliest for site

By Jay Huerbin

For Pitt’s baseball, softball, soccer and track and field teams, it’s about time. Pitt’s Board… For Pitt’s baseball, softball, soccer and track and field teams, it’s about time. Pitt’s Board of Trustee’s Property and Facilities Committee unanimously decided Nov. 7 to purchase land behind Trees Hall for the construction of a new Olympic sports complex for Pitt athletics. Construction has started on the 12.5-acre site, said University spokesman John Fedele. The University selected the construction management firm P.J. Dick Inc. through a bidding process. Once a final design is completed, P.J. Dick will create a final package and send out information to different contractors. Like the firm, these contractors will also be selected through a bidding process. Officials from the Pittsburgh-based P.J. Dick company declined to comment on their upcoming project. Pitt athletics spokesman E.J. Borghetti said that in the early stages of the planning, there would be no comment from the athletic department. While the initial site work has begun, there is still no final design for the complex. Currently, the fields are only going through reconditioning and prepping so that the complex can be built there. Pitt Executive Vice Chancellor Jerome Cochran explained that the earliest the fields could be ready would be for the spring of 2010, but everything is preliminary because of the current financial situations in the country. ‘One of the things we need to think about is that from day-to-day, the economic conditions in the country are such that anything can happen,’ said Cochran. ‘And when you’re talking about a project like this, [the timetable] is dependent on the markets.’ Cochran also said that because Pitt is in the early stages of design and development, an estimate of the final cost cannot be determined. In a series of projects approved by the committee, the land was purchased from the Housing Authority of Pittsburgh for $14.3 million. The facility is part of a 12-year plan the University implemented during the 2006-07 school year, Cochran said. The plan takes into account the input of faculty, staff and students to meet the needs of academic and athletic concerns. ‘This project has been in the making for quite a long time,’ said Cochran. ‘[It] is meant to meet the need of the department of athletics for its intercollegiate men’s baseball team, women’s softball, and its men’s and women’s soccer teams.’ The plan also involves adding a three-story support building for the new fields and improving the area behind the Cost Center for Pitt’s track and field team. Cochran said the current field situation for these teams is ‘inadequate’ ‘mdash; as the soccer teams play home games more than 15 miles away in Cheswick. And because of the current travel involved, Pitt’s main goal is to increase the competition among Pitt athletics and increase student attendance. Cochran also said that these sports don’t currently have facilities that either the NCAA or Big East would find suitable for conference and national championship games. ‘ ‘The new facilities will provide those teams with modern, on-campus facilities, which will help them compete with their peers and with recruiting,’ said Fedele. ‘It also will allow the student body better access to the home games these teams play.’ Although the new fields will be on campus, Fedele said that at this early stage in design there are no additional transportation plans from Lower to Upper Campus. According to Fedele, the new facility will be paid for by Pitt’s Education and General Budget, private donations and athletic revenues. With the completion of the new fields, Pitt plans to open up more space for the rest of the students. ‘By this project being completed, all that space behind the Cost Center will be opened up for much more access for intramural activity,’ said Cochran. ‘It really will provide a significant increase in the amount of space available to the general student body.’ Still in the beginning phases of planning, University officials do not anticipate any problems to occur during the construction of the complex. Cochran explained that the hardest part was getting through ‘bureaucracy’ to acquire the land. And the University is approaching the plan with caution. ‘It’s a long process between the need to get this project through the city, the city housing authority, the planning commission, the zoning board [and] several approvals by City Council,’ said Cochran. ‘And then the University has to constantly update its master plan whenever they’re going to do a project. That master plan has to go through the process.’ But Cochran said that unlike acquiring the land, the construction should not be complicated. Although the project might still be in the early phases of development, anticipation is still high for the University and the athletic department. ‘What it does for the programs has yet to be seen,’ said Cochran. ‘One hopes that with the right facilities, teams can build a successful program both from the standpoint of recruiting and development of a fanbase.’